Rodney’s first byline in the business section was mostly accidental.

Somewhere in the middle of an article about the latest revelations in environmentally-friendly engine designs he’d wandered off into a treatise about the big three in Detroit and stumbled into Japan, somehow—into the stacks and reams and mountains of fiscal documentation that trailed Toyota and Nissan and Honda like a jet engine plume.

“What the hell is this?” Donald had asked, gnawing on a granola bar. He’d waved at the yellowing posters on the wall, the dusty windows. “Where the hell do you think this is? The business desk?”

“This is about science!” Rodney had argued, baffled.

“Yeah, whatever,” Donald had muttered and waved him off.

Efficient engine numbers increase, study finds, the hed read the next morning; Rodney was halfway through a truly vile rant at the copydesk about annoying alliteration in his headlines when he noticed he saw it in the business section instead of the science pages. “Wait,” he’d stopped mid-rant. “What the hell?” Judy had taken the opportunity to hang up on him and been unrepentant, making Rodney’s next three clips read Aging Americans access internet and Pond scum can be fun and Rear reconstructions raise brows, blood pressure.

*

His next 15 bylines in the b-section were on purpose. It turned out the rest of the staff was right: there was literally no job worse than interviewing scientists. He spent five more years in Vancouver before he fell into bed briefly with the Tribune in Chicago, where he made a lot of unsavory jokes about what one could do with a silo of sheep and bitching about the Merc until the Mercury-News took him to Silicon Valley. And then after a brief and utterly regrettable stay at the Chronicle listening to drunk oil industry analysts in bars, he allowed himself to be seduced by Reuters and with an enormous amount of liquor. He signed on for their hellish roller coaster of overseas bureaus—which was actually fun until on his fourth day at the fucking Sunflower Building in the CBD in Beijing when a bomber broke into the office and held them all hostage for nearly 15 hours. “I’m tendering my resignation, official now,” Rodney told his editor, who’d said, “Sure, whatever, fine—give this a quick read before I put it on the wire,” and ignored Rodney’s near-aneurysm as he’d shouted, “What the fuck! That guy is still here threatening to blow us up!”

*

He ended up at the WSJ mostly through sheer cussedness and by writing the managing editor a series of 11 white papers on why their entire technology and science section would obviously collapse into irrelevance and obscurity if they didn’t have his Midas touch.

“You don’t have a Midas touch, Rodney,” Elizabeth told him, sounding mildly amused.

“I do,” Rodney told her. “You tried to poach me when I worked at Reuters.”

“And then I heard unflattering stories about you attempting to defect during a bomb scare,” Elizabeth rejoined, a smile clear in her voice. “We don’t like that kind of disloyalty.”

Rolling his eyes enormously, Rodney said, “I swear to God if somebody bursts into your ass-ugly office with a bomb I will stand there and volunteer to be pink mist this time around, all right? I won’t even throw Walter whatshisface in front of me.”

“You’d better not, McKay,” Elizabeth laughed. “He’s our most popular columnist.” There was a brief pause, and Rodney heard the soft singing of Japanese in the background, Elizabeth saying, “Hai—gomen nasai, ima nanjidesuka?” before she came back on the line and said, “I’ve got to go, I promised to go watch the Nikkei close.”

“So I’m hired,” Rodney told her.

She hung up on him.

His first day at the Journal he made the spring intern cry and poured half a pot of coffee all over his pants when he heard somebody calling through the office, “Somebody find McKay—I’ve got Jennings from Blackstone on the line.” It was cool, he consoled himself, trying to type and towel off his stinging crotch at the same time; the best part of being a print reporter was that just like politics and sausage, most people weren’t interested in seeing how it was all put together.

Elizabeth blew back into the office at the end of his second week at the paper, looking like she’d just climbed out of a ¥78,092,837,434 seaweed wrap.

“I read your piece on the Unocal CNOOC acquisition,” she told him, too-casually, over dinner later that night at Babbo’s. She was drinking a Chilean burgundy and it colored her mouth in—redder even than before. “It was very coherent.”

He scowled at her. “If any new reporters or interns ever commit suicide you can rest assured it’s not because of your lack of encouragement or praise,” he told her sarcastically, stabbing angrily at his fusili.

“Please,” Elizabeth scoffed. Her Blackberry buzzed across the surface of the table, a soft rustle across the steam-ironed damask and that was the end of that.

*

It wouldn’t matter if Elizabeth spit in every incoming reporter’s coffee, Rodney knew. The Journal broke Enron and pilfered computers from Al-Queda and wrote searing exposes of everybody and their mother; they championed the free market and they decoded science, wrote about the weird and the wonderful and the nearly incomprehensible. They’d watched—stunned and still writing—as the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11 and they’d watched again as their own offices at 1 World Financial Center had crumbled away into nothing. They’d put out a 9/12 paper anyway, unflappable.

It wouldn’t matter if Elizabeth slapped every incoming reporter—most reporters would gladly take it, would gladly creep over broken glass to have the opportunity.

*

Rodney had never wanted to be a journalist, it’d just sort of happened—like moving to New York or having sex with Katie Brown from the Post or almost being slapped with a sexual harassment suit by Sam Carter from the Times or Cameron Mitchell from Newsday. But if it was one thing Rodney learned from learning to inhale and exhale with the rhythm of the NYSE, it was that any minute, some mouthy little internet upstart could buy you and all your quirky characters in neon orange jackets and sneakers could be replaced by, and that meant you seized life by the testes before the Archipeligo group bought it.

“Can I take you out for drinks?” Rodney asked.

The man blinked back at him, hazel eyes narrowing in confusion for a moment. He was wearing a dark suit and a slightly-wrinkled shirt with a blue tie.

“Drinks,” Rodney repeated impatiently, watching the elevator numbers tick up-up-up. “Overpriced alcoholic beverages in fanciful glass containers—available at many themed bars the city over.”

The man opened his mouth for just a second before the elevator dinged, and as the doors slid open, he said, over the boxful of files in his arms, “This is my floor,” and got off.

“Legal,” Rodney muttered, watching the man disappear into a press of lawyers, jabbing at the door close button frantically. “Figures.”

*

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abstract

East Coast Gazette has a terrible editorial focus and tends to use a lot of ALL CAPS but TOTALLY NOT BECAUSE OF HARRY POTTER. Stories in progress as well as snapshots will be listed in the "box full of snapshots" below, website archive for stories and assorted tomfoolery is glitterati.

recs (on del.icio.us)


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